A Promising New Generation

December 8, 2008

by Susan Monger, DVM

Dr. Monger lecturing students
Dr. Susan Monger lectures a group of veterinary students in El Salvador.

The HSVMA Rural Area Veterinary Services (HSVMA-RAVS) team has visited many underdeveloped and impoverished countries over the years, bringing much needed veterinary care and education to its residents.

We have traveled to El Salvador, and it was certainly one of the poorest regions we've visited. Not only do most Salvadorans live in poverty, but the University of San Salvador—and more specifically the College of Veterinary Medicine—lacks what most veterinary programs stateside have.

Our recent trip followed a visit in the spring, where we introduced the veterinary students to a curriculum of lectures and clinical work.

We returned this fall to reinforce that groundwork and focus our efforts on the graduating senior students, as well as the clinical faculty.

One student at a time

One of the biggest challenges for these students is a lack of clinical experience, which is why these clinics are so important to them.

Students monitoring anesthesia
A group of students closely monitors an animal under anesthesia.

Our goal is to instill in them the knowledge of proper animal handling, as well as basic clinical and surgical technique.

Throughout the week, we work individually with each student, performing physical exams and tutorials in anesthesia, surgery and recovery, fluid therapy and shock treatment.

Although the days are long and the breaks are few, the students work hard without complaint, showing great enthusiasm and dedication to the tasks at hand.

Introducing change

Drs. Molina and Diaz in surgery
Drs. Claudia Molina and Rebecca Diaz perform a surgery at the clinic.

We also focus our efforts on working with several clinical faculty members, including the school's chief of surgery.

The skills demonstrated by the faculty reveal much about how surgery is practiced and taught in this area, and emphasize the importance of introducing change at this level.

One faculty member in particular stood out: Dr. Claudia Molina is an adjunct professor at the university. Dr. Molina was first introduced to the field services team in 2004 and has been a participant ever since.

Over the years, we have watched her skills improve, and she has become a role model to other Salvadoran participants. She is now an integral part of our teaching team, successfully demonstrating to others that improved skills can and will occur.

The next generation

Although our clinics aim to demonstrate basic animal care and techniques that can be applied with minimal and affordable equipment, our main focus remains to establish good habits early in the careers of these promising veterinarians.

The skills this new generation learns today will lead to an increase in the number of successful treatments and surgeries they perform in the years to come, and it will bring change to animal welfare in the needy area.

Dr. Susan Monger is the Director of HSVMA-RAVS, International Program.